Gov’t reviewing Russia defense ties after expulsion

Military attaché to Moscow Col. Vadim Leiderman was helping Israeli defense industries illegally obtain sensitive technology, report says.

By
May 20, 2011 02:52
2 minute read.
IDF attache to Moscow Col. Vadim Laderman

Vadim Laderman 311. (photo credit: Assaf Shilo/Israel Sun)

 
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The deportation of Israel’s military attaché to Moscow continued to raise concerns within the defense establishment on Thursday, amid calls for a review of military ties with Russia.

Col. Vadim Leiderman was arrested last Thursday by Russian security services and questioned about allegations that he had been spying on Israel’s behalf. He was told he had 48 hours to leave the country, and he returned to Israel last weekend, two months before the end of his term.

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While Israel denied that Leiderman had been involved in espionage, the Russian news agency Novosti reported on Thursday that the Israel Air Force officer had been helping Israeli defense industries illegally obtain sensitive technology.

“This deals entirely with industrial espionage – or rather, his overly active work on behalf of certain Israeli companies on the Russian market,” a Russian security source was quoted in the media as saying.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday saying Leiderman was caught “red-handed... receiving secret information from a Russian citizen.”

Israeli-Russian defense ties have improved in recent years, as Moscow canceled the delivery of the S300 Air Defense System to Iran, and in return Israel agreed to sell Russia the rights to manufacture unmanned aerial vehicles developed by Israel Aerospace Industries.

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Israel is reviewing several Russian requests to buy Israeli military hardware, and it is possible that Leiderman’s deportation will have affect the deliberations.

Israeli drones sold so far to Russia – which issued a requirement document for unmanned aerial vehicles after its war with Georgia in 2008 – have been older models due to concerns the technology would be transferred to Arab countries.

Russia has expressed interest in Israel Aerospace Industries’s more advanced drones, such as the Heron, which can stay airborne for more than 24 hours and has a range of thousands of kilometers, as well as the ability to carry many types of payloads.

It is also interested in additional Israeli-made intelligence platforms, as well as command- and-control systems to upgrade communications within its military.

The IDF and the Defense Ministry are discussing whether they should send a new attaché to Moscow or keep the position empty to protest Leiderman’s expulsion.

“Everything is under consideration,” a senior defense official said on Thursday. “We will hold discussions over the coming days and hope to be able to put this behind us as soon as possible.”

The Foreign Ministry declined all comment.

A Russian diplomatic source said he did not believe the incident would permanently cloud relations between the countries because neither was looking for a fight.

“I think everyone wants to forget about this as fast as possible,” he said.

The source, referring to Israeli security and diplomatic officials who were expelled from Ireland, Australia and Britain last year following the hit on top Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, said those steps did not damage Israel’s bilateral ties with the countries.

“This will be in the news for a couple of days, and then everyone will forget,” he said.

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